Why have an Advance Directive?
There may come a time in your life when you need someone else to make medical decisions for you. The best way to prepare for that day is by planning ahead. Completing advance directives, including a living will and a health power of attorney, is a way to ensure your wishes are followed and provides your family with a framework for making decisions on your behalf. It will guide your family in regards to your wishes and protects them from having to make hard choices without knowing what you would have chosen for yourself.
Should you become unable to communicate your wishes, a Health Care Power of Attorney document will name your spokesperson (agent) and describe how you want end-of-life decisions made on your behalf. Your choice for life-sustaining measures, such as resuscitation or use of breathing machines, is addressed.
What is an Advance Directive?
A living will. A living will tells your health-care professional that you do not want life-sustaining procedures used if you have a terminal condition and are unable to state your wishes. A living will, unlike a health care power of attorney, only applies if you have a terminal condition. A terminal condition means an incurable and irreversible condition such that death is imminent and the application of any life-sustaining procedures serves only to prolong the dying process.
Health Care Power of Attorney
The health care power of attorney lets you choose someone to make health-care decisions for you in the future, if you are no longer able to make these decisions for yourself. You are called the "principal" in the power of attorney form and the person you choose to make decisions is called your "agent." Your agent would make health-care decisions for you if you were no longer able to makes these decisions for yourself. So long as you are able to make these decisions, you will have the power to do so. You may use a standard health care power of attorney form or write your own. You may give your agent specific directions about the health care you do or do not want.
What should I consider when completing an advance directive?
There are a number of resources to help you complete your advance directive. Once you make your decisions, it is vital to put them in writing and make sure your designated agent, family members and health care providers have received a copy of the document.
The following websites can help you complete your advance care directive:
If you are hospitalized at Edward and would like assistance in completing your advance directives, there are resources available including social workers, palliative care case managers and chaplains.
Leaving the hospital with a complicated treatment plan can be overwhelming. We encourage patients to have a discharge plan in place to help you organize and arrange for follow-up care.
Throughout your stay at Edward, your healthcare team will be working with you to create your discharge plan. Your discharge plan will be reviewed daily and updated depending on your health needs.
The discharge plan lays out the patient’s next steps, such as sources of care outside of the hospital, necessary medical equipment and where to get it, a medication list and schedule of future appointments. The day before you leave the hospital, review your discharge plan with your physician.
Patients with chronic medical conditions may want to discuss palliative care services with their physician.
The goal of palliative care programs is to provide patients with improved quality of life through management of physical symptoms including pain for patients that have a chronic illness. Receiving palliative care does not mean that your death is imminent. You can continue to receive treatment of your condition while receiving palliative services. Palliative care is provided by a Palliative Care physician or an Advanced Practice Nurse in the patient’s home, the hospital, a sub-acute rehabilitation facility, assisted living and long-term care facilities, oncology clinics or outpatient offices.
Patients with a limited life expectancy may want to discuss hospice services with their physician.
Hospice programs help people who are in the end stages of a serious illness, typically diagnosed with less than six months to live. Hospice provides a team-oriented approach to expert medical care, pain and symptom management, and emotional and spiritual support expressly tailored to the patient's needs and wishes. Hospice programs offer emotional and spiritual support for caregivers as well. At the center of hospice is the belief that each patient has the right to die pain-free and with dignity.